***CHANGES - if you have aready read this chapter you don't need to re-read the only change is where she lives, she is now in the Lake Districk, she was too close to London while living in Kent - sorry***
Welcome, to Missing. If you are joining me from WtDE you will be somewhat familiar with what I am about to say, but stick with me.
I would like to say sorry first of all, to those of you that are waiting for updates on Karma and First Light, I promise that I haven't given up on them, but I just can't get to grips with them at the moment and am hoping that it will come to me in time, if they don't I will either take them down or offer them up for adoption.
Secondly, Missing is a Regency piece and it is the first time I have ever tried to write in the time frame as well as the first time I have ever written in the third person, so please go easy on me.
I have tried to keep the narration and the dialogue as close to that era as possible, attempting to avoid modern wording and adapt to the flow that the likes of Jane Austin would have used, but I am a 21st century girl and I have probably slipped more than once and for that I apologise.
With this in mind, some of the speech patterns and narration may not appear to read right, but it was how us English spoke in those days (putting to many words in a sentence for example).
The beginning of the story is set in Coniston (a village in the Lake Districk) in 1814, the villages that I have used are real but distances and finer details are fictional. I will post end notes on later chapters to highlight what is fact and what is fiction. (all but Abbeyfield Manor and the London town houses will be real also)
A few things that you might find useful
abed = in bed
Out = young daughters of gentlemen were introduced to society(allowed out on the town) at around 17 years old, at this point gentlemen were able to ask them to dance (normally not more than once – twice if they were showing an interest) and arrange to 'call' on them when they would spend around fifteen minutes to half an hour in the company of the young lady, normal in the parlour and ALWAYS with a chaperone. They were also able then to offer courtship or engagement after gaining permission from the girls father.
One and twenty (for example) = Basically 21 but just a strange was of saying it, this is the age that woman were able to make a decision to marry or seek employment without their fathers consent, but the world was no place for a woman, so although she would leave her fathers household and protection, she would then fall under the protection of her male employer or her husband.
Dowry = a sum of money paid by a girls father to her new husband upon marriage, this would usually become a part of a settlement that the husband would bestow his wife upon his death or set as a dowry for their future daughter(s).
Abigail = fancy name for a lady's maid (helped posh girls to dress, bathe and do their hair etc)
I am no historian so please don't pick the above apart if you are, it is just a rough guide to help people along.
Well enough of me going on, please enjoy the show and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.
Isabella Swan sat on the wide window ledge in her small room at Abbeyfield Manor, watching the sun slowly rise over the mountains. She could hear the hustle and bustle of the few servants her family kept as they went about their morning chores, preparing the house for a new day. Her parents and her younger sister, Jessica were no doubt still abed and were unlikely to rise for a few hours yet.
As most mornings, she would dress shortly and wait until she heard the first stirrings of her family before making her way, quietly, downstairs, through the side door and out into the surrounding woodlands in a vain attempt to avoid an early morning confrontation with her highly strung sister or irate parents.
Life at home was not always so difficult for Isabella, there was a time when she could be found sat beneath the desk in her fathers study, paper and charcoal abound, as her father worked on the estate accounts, or outside working in the garden with her mother, listening ardently to the lessons she was being given. But that was when she was an only child, before Jessica was born twelve years before.
Since that time Isabella has been nothing but an inconvenience to her parents, at the end of her mothers wrath or her fathers whip for the slightest of misdemeanour's, left to supply her own education, to sow her own clothing, to prepare herself for the day. While Jessica was tutored by the best nannies, governesses and masters the family could afford, dressed in the finest satin and silk gowns supplied by the local seamstress, often too elaborate for a child, and had her every whim catered for by her ladies maid.
One would think that this would make Isabella a bitter young lady, but she was far from it, as each new day that dawned brought her one step closer to the time that she could leave her fathers household and maker her own way in life as a governess or ladies companion herself, it was the one benefit that being a Swan gave her, she was a gentlemans daughter and therefore entitled to a more senior position than that of a maid or abigail.
While other gentlemans daughters her age were enjoying their first or even second seasons and considering offers of courtship or engagement from eligible gentlemen, Isabella had no such ambitions. At eighteen she was still not out in society, her plain day-dresses and simple hairstyles were testament to that and her parents showed no signs of letting it be so.
It confounded Isabella why this would be, they made no qualms of informing her that she was a burden on the tight household budget and a blight on the family's felicity, yet here she stayed, and would stay for the next three years when; at one and twenty, she would be a woman in her own right, free of her fathers control and able to make her own choices in life.
Yet, while there were no ambitions, there were daydreams, dreams of a handsome young gentleman or officer, the like of which she had spied in her local village on the few occasions that she had been allowed to venture into town, riding through the gates of Abbeyfield on his black stallion, set to steal her away to places unknown, away from a life of heartache and misery. Just like in the books that her good friend Angela Webber loaned her on occasion.
The creaking of the bed in the next room to hers roused Isabella from her daydreams and as she dress swiftly, realising that she had been too lost in thought and was now at risk of encountering her vapid sister, she stumbled, bumping her hip into the dressing table and sending her pitcher of water tumbling to the floor where it shattered into a hundred pieces.
"Oh my." she gasped, clasping her hand to her mouth.
Her hip was throbbing, but that was the least of her worries as footsteps could be heard racing down the hallway and as the door to her room burst open to reveal Jessica, still draped in her nightgown, Isabella froze in her place, her heart beating rapidly and her breath coming in short pants. She did not need to see the grin of smug satisfaction that spread across Jessica's face to know that she would be in trouble, years of similar mishaps and their consequential punishments were enough to foment that fact.
"Mama, Papa!" Jessica yelled as she turned and sprinted towards master and mistress' rooms at the far end of the hall, wanting to be the first to inform her parents of Isabella's most recent bout of clumsiness.
Fear spiked inside of Isabella, and with no less thought she followed her sister out of the room but turned left, instead of the right that Jessica had taken, and ran down the stairs, attempting to close the last remaining buttons on the front of her gown as she fled. Disregarding her walking boots, bonnet and pelisse that hung in the entryway, Isabella pulled open the heavy front door and raced out into the sunshine.
The loose pebbled on the drive pressed painfully into the soles of her stocking clad feet as she ran, and her loose waist length mahogany hair flew around her face, but she didn't care. She knew that she would be in greater trouble for running and that her punishment would be severe, but her father terrified her and that fear made her flee.
Isabella ran as fast as her short legs could carry her, veering off the sodden road and into the tree-line, away from the prying eyes of the field workers that could inform her father of her location should he choose to follow her, not that she suspected he would. As the leading family in the neighbourhood, her father had an image to upkeep, an image that Isabella was not aiding in her attempt to save the skin on her back. So no, he would not follow, he would lie in wait for her return, stewing in his unjust fury that would then rain down on the tender flesh of her back and behind.
Tear were blinding Isabella's vision and her lungs were aching in their fight to draw in oxygen, but she pushed on, trying desperately to gain as much distance between herself and her father as possible, but it all came to naught when she tripped over a raised tree root and tumbled to the ground. Pain rushed through hands and knees as she landed amongst the rock and twigs that littered the forest floor. Her tired body gave out and she fell sideways onto the earth curling in on herself in the process.
There she lay, cold, tired, hungry and in pain until her tears ran dry, and the sun reached it's peak in the sky, questioning what she had done to deserve a life such as this. She was a good girl, she never questioned orders or answered back like Jessica did, she never wasted food or spent money, she was always respectful to family and visitors, yet she was reprimanded and tormented, whipped and slapped sometimes for no reason at all, and other times for her regular bouts of clumsiness and she knew in her heart the she deserved none of it.
She longed for the comforting arms of a mother, the arms that she had missed these last twelve years, for the whispered words of comfort when she was sad or injured, lost or lonely. She missed the praise her father bestowed upon her for her reading and arithmetic or her childish attempts at drawing and playing the pianoforte. But after all this time she understood that she was unlovable and unwanted. She was plain in appearance, lax in etiquette and poor in accomplishments and she knew her parents were correct in keeping her out of society, she was an embarrassment to the Swan name, and with no dowry to speak off, no gentlemen callers would come so the money that it would cost to get her ready for her first season was better spent elsewhere.
When she knew that she could deny the inevitable no longer, she wiped her dirty tear stained face on the skirt of her dress and pushed her weak body off the ground. The temptation to keep running in the direction away from home was strong, but the fear of the unknown was stronger than the terror she felt of facing her father, so she squared her shoulders and took the first tentative step that would lead her to her tormentor.
Isabella didn't rush the journey back to Abbyfield, she had no desire to feel the biting sting of her fathers strap or the brutal force of his clenched fist. Instead she attempted to push aside what awaited her at home and enjoy the feel of the sunlight on her skin, knowing that it would be the last time she would be outdoors until her bruises had healed enough for her to be seen in public without rousing suspicion. If she didn't at least attempt to forget, she knew that her knees would give out under her once again.
As the gates to Abbeyfield came into view her true terror took hold once again, her whole body quaked with undiluted fear and her eyes stung with the tears she needed to release, but held at bay. Sending one last prayer up to the heavens she scurried across the drive and pushed her way through the door.
The first blow took her by surprise and she cried out in pain as her small body fell against the wall with the force in which the back of her fathers hand had struck the side of her face. The tears that she had been holding back sprang free and trickled down her bruising cheek, stinging the cut that had spilt across her bottom lip.
"Quit your crying, girl, before I give you something to cry about," her father hissed.
Charles Swan was a large man, broad in the shoulders and thick at the waist. His towering six foot frame dwarfed Isabella's tiny body and his iron fist and heavy boots had caused more damage to her than she ever cared to remember.
Isabella remained silent, knowing it would be so much worse for her if she attempted to speak or apologise without permission to do so. Her tears though were not as easily silenced and while she attempted to hold back her sobs, the tears continued to flow unabated.
"You disrespect me, girl. By disrespecting the luxuries with which I provide you, you disrespect me. No child of mine shall show such discourteous and wicked behaviour. Ten lashes for each item tarnished or destroyed shall be your punishment, and should you choose to flounder my generosity again, then so help me God, you will be sorry, girl." Charles didn't yell the words that were spoken, but the unguarded menace in his quiet threat sent shivers of ice down Isabella's spine. "To your room," he demanded.
This was worse then she had thought it would be, if she was being sent to her room then she knew that her father would leave her to dwell on her punishment until he had consumed enough brandy to render a horse unconscious, at which time he would call her down to his study where her lashing would commence.
As she scrambled to her feet and stumbled across the entryway and up the stairs, passing a giggling Jessica on the way, Isabella tried to tabulate how many lashes were coming her way. The ten she was to receive for her pitcher were obvious, but it wasn't until she reached her room and caught sight of her dishevelled appearance in the looking glass, that she truly realised what was awaiting her in her fathers study.
The morning dress that had been cream when she had fled the house hours ago, was muddied and torn, her petticoat was black along the hem and both of her stocking were beyond repair. Nausea rippled through her stomach, forty lashes she was to receive forty lashes and if she was correct in assuming that her fathers brandy decanter would be down more than a sniffer or two by the time she was summoned, his intoxication would likely result in his inability to keep count and he would think nothing of starting at the beginning.
Shaking from head to toe, Isabella did her best to clean the blood and grime from her bruised face and her grazed hands, knees and feet, wincing when the cold wet wash cloth caught on her torn skin. She left on her ruined dress and dirty petticoat, it would be coming off soon enough.
She had just finished combing through her tangled locks when there was a timid knock upon her door.
"Enter" she beckoned quietly. The door creaked open slightly to reveal pale plum woman, with wild grey hair pulled back loosely in a dishevelled bun. Mrs Clearwater had been with the family for nine and twenty years, she had seen plenty during her long life, but nothing disturbed her more than seeing what Isabella suffered, the daily torment and frequent beatings, broke her old heart, but she was helpless to stop it, she was forced to be contented with what little help she could offer and she knew that her services would be required tonight.
"Excuse me, Miss, but the master would like to see you in his study," Mrs Clearwater stuttered.
"Thank you, Mrs Clearwater," Isabella whispered, and with once last calming breath she placed her comb back atop her dressing table and followed the old house keeper down the stairs.
It was two days before Isabella regained consciousness, a further three before the fever that had consumed her during her sleep, broke, and eight days more before she was well enough to alight from her bed, to take her first tentative steps to her window seat. But now there she sat once again, a pillow protecting her marred back from the hard wall she rested against. Mrs. Clearwater was within her chamber replacing her blood stained sheets with fresh, after helping to ready Isabella for the day by redressing her wounds and lacing her stays.
"Are you well, child?" Mrs Clearwater questioned.
"I am well, thank you," Isabella responded quietly.
"But to walk to Coniston, 'tis too soon, Miss, you shan't make it alone, I no not what the Mistress is thinking," Mrs Clearwater worried.
"I shall be fine, please do not worry yourself for me, 'tis a beautiful day, the fresh air will do me good. Besides, Jessica is in need of more art supply's and she is yet too young to venture into town without mother or father." Isabella reassured her.
"As you say, Miss," Mrs Clearwater replied and bobbing a quick curtsy she hurried from the room.
Isabella sighed, she knew herself that she was too weak yet to walk the two miles into the village, but her mother had ordered her to go and she was helpless to disobey. Her saving grace was that she planned to call on Angela on the way to Coniston, she hadn't seen her friend in some time and not only did she have a book to return to her, the last time she had seen Angela, Mr Cheney, the gentleman that owned the land adjacent to Abbeyfield, had been to call upon her and Isabella was excited to hear the outcome.
Rising carefully from her window seat, Isabella gingerly made her way out of her room and down the stairs for the first time in almost a fortnight. The door to her fathers study was fortunately closed but she could hear her mother and Jessica conversing in the parlour and knew that she would have to make a appearance in order to confirm that nothing else was required from town. After taking a deep breath to prepare herself she walk quietly into the room.
Her mother, Renee, named for her French grandmother, sat regally in her chair by the fire, her embroidery in hand. When Isabella entered the room her ice cold blue eyes locked onto her eldest daughter , waiting for her to step a toe out of line. While Jessica sat flipping through the latest fashion magazine, chatting away about this dress and that lace.
"Good morning, Mother, Jessica," Isabella greeted as warmly as she could.
"Isabella," her mother returned curtly.
"I am to town, do you require items other than Jessica's supply's?" She asked quietly. Jessica's blonde head, so like her mothers, rose upon hearing her name.
"Oh, 'tis you. Make sure to hurry, I have an assignment to complete for Mrs. Mallory, that has been delayed these days past, while you lazed abed," Jessica huffed.
"Of course," Isabella murmurer in agreement, knowing no less would be acceptable.
"Nothing further is required," her mother replied sharply, returning her eyes to her work.
"I'll be on my way then," Isabella nodded, but the other occupants of the room were ignorant to her words and she gratefully slipped away.
The October morning was cool, but the warm blue pelisse that had once been her mothers along with the beige bonnet and gloves she wore, kept the frigid air at bay. Not wanting to tire herself needlessly, Isabella adopted a slow steady gait as she strolled along the lane to Coniston, stopping occasionally to admire her surroundings. She spent many an hour wondering through the woodlands and lanes that surrounded her home, it was a past-time that was meant to aid her in her avoidance of spending time indoors with her family, but she soon found that she enjoyed the beauty of the land, and soon took to bringing along a hidden borrowed book and finding a new corner of the woodland to whittle away the hours before she had to return, she found the saying out of sight, out of mind often applied to her and she was happy to take advantage of that.
"Isabella!" startled by the sudden disturbance in the otherwise silent lane, Isabella lost her footing and narrowly avoided a tumble. Steadying herself she turned and realised that she had walked further than she would have predicted and found that she had, in her musings, bypassed the Webber's house, and Angela was rushing up the lane to meet her.
"Angela, oh how I have missed you," Isabella cried as her friend reached her. "I was meaning to call, but I was lost in thought and had not realised where I was," she laughed nervously.
"I heard you were sick, but mama kept me away, are you well now? you do not look well." Angela fretted.
"I am fine, the air is doing me well. How have you been?" she replied.
"Oh, Isabella, I am wonderful, Mr Cheney has asked papa's permission to court me, we will be attending the assembly on Thursday together. I am ever so excited, won't you say you will join us?" Angela pleaded taking Isabella's hands in hers.
"I would love nothing more, Angela, but you know I am not yet out, Mother and Father would forbid it, but take a turn for me won't you?"
"Of, course," Angela nodded solemnly.
"Wonderful. I can't stay today, Angela, I am needed at home, but I wanted to return this to you," she whispered, removing the borrowed book from inside her coat.
"Would you like to take another?"
"Thank you,but not today, I must be away to town, but I promise to call as soon as I can and you can tell me all about your wonderful Mr Cheney" Isabella smiled, the first true smile to grace her countenance in some time.
"I will look forward to it. Look after yourself, Izzy,"
"I will," Isabella promised and after a light embrace she continued on her way.
It was market day in Coniston, and the town square was teaming with locals and visitors from nearby towns as well as a scattering of officers from the regiment that was stationed in the area, their bright red coats standing out amongst the crowds. Knowing exactly where she was going Isabella quickly made her was across the square, carefully trying to avoid being knocked in to, it would not take much to open one of the many wounds that riddled her back and that was the last thing she needed, she was already feeling weak from her walk.
Mr Banner, had already wrapped Jessica's supplies when Isabella arrived, so all that Isabella had to do was sign the account to confirm the purchase and she was on her way.
"Lady Alice!" a masculine voice called from behind her, but it was lost in the sea of voices that floated through the square and Isabella paid it no mind.
"Lady Alice, wait!" The voice called again and again it was ignored by the recipient.
A firm hand suddenly gripped onto Isabella's arm and she screamed in fright and fruitlessly attempted to pull her arm away.
"Lady Alice, what on God's green earth are you doing here?" The voice demanded and as Isabella turned to face her attacker, he released her arm and took a small step back, "Does your father know you are here and dress like that?"
"I. . .I have. . ." Isabella stuttered, she was rendered speechless with fear and confusion. The gentleman that stood before her was dressed in full regimentals and although lacking any formal education Isabella knew enough to know that the four laces that donned his epaulettes signified his standing as a General in His Majesty's Army. His honey blonde hair was wavy and cut to his chin and his light blue eyes did nothing to hide his displeasure.
" You have?" he questioned impatiently.
"I. . .h-have no knowledge o-of a Lady Alice, S-sir," she attempted to explain, but the General shook his head.
"Do not play games with me, My Lady. I leave town for a se'night and you find yet another adventure to embark upon, who accompanied you? Do your mother and father know that you are scampering through the Lakes? Your brother? This has to stop, Lady Alice," he demanded.
"P-please, Sir. I am not Lady Alice. My name is Isabella Swan, my family and I reside at Abbeyfield Manor." Isabella pleaded.
The General regarded the girl closely, first noticing the fear in her wide brown eyes, that lacked any recognition, then her too pale complexion that was tinged with a yellow and green hew on her left cheek, remnants of an old bruise, her mahogany hair that was a shade of two lighter than it should be and lastly her shacking hands and trembling lip. He took another step back and dropped his head in a light bow.
"Please accept my apologies, Miss Swan, but you look remarkably like a close acquaintance of mine. My name is General Jasper Whitlock, forgive me for approaching you without a formal introduction."
"No harm done, General, but I must be on my way, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance," Isabella responded quietly, but she was feeling justifiably uneasy and was desperate to be on her way home.
"You are too kind. Could you forgive me one question?" The General pleaded.
"Of course," Isabella nodded.
"What is your date of birth?" he asked hesitantly, fully aware that he was disregarding his ingrained manners and formal etiquette. Isabella was puzzled by the question and not a little offended but answered him regardless, for what harm could come of it.
"September thirteenth, seventeen ninety six," she replied before turning and making her was back towards home.
What she failed to see with her hasty departure was the undisguised look of wonder that took hold of the Generals usually stoic face.